Google’s ranking algorithm evolves alongside technological change and user preference, meaning the ranking factors that compose the algorithm are always in flux. For example, in the last three to four years, mobile-friendliness and site security have eclipsed factors that were once considered essential by most SEO agencies.
Last week, Olga Andrienko of SEMrush, Marcus Tober of Searchmatics, and Herndon Hasty of The Container Store congregated onstage at SMX East, a leading conference for search marketing professionals, to discuss what ranking factors matter most in 2017. Each speaker presented a unique perspective, but several common themes united the panel and should be of great interest to SEO agencies.
All three emphasized the importance of website security, specifically the use of HTTPS over HTTP. Andrienko stated that 65 per cent of domains ranking in the top three positions for high-volume keywords are secured with HTTPS, according to a recent SEMrush study. Tober mentioned that this factor was particularly essential for finance sites, while Herndon noted HTTPS’ importance, but warned that switching to a secure protocol can hurt your site speed.
Both Andrienko and Tober observed that high-ranking sites feature lengthy content. Pages in the top three results contained content that was 45 per cent longer than pages in the 20th position, Andrienko said. However, both speakers stressed that longer content isn’t better by virtue of its length alone and warned against flooding your site with poorly crafted or irrelevant writing.
Interestingly, the same two speakers also found that keywords within domain titles are less important than many SEO agencies might think. This could be due to Google’s improved contextual understanding, or simply due to a tweak in the algorithm. Herndon, on the other hand, thought keywords within domain titles remained useful, particularly for low search volume keywords.
Other important ranking factors included user signals like bounce rates, pages per session, links, and page speed.
Image credit: SearchMarketingExpo/@smx on Twitter